People are anxious and worried about a variety of issues, activities, and situations, not just one type.
For this disorder to be diagnosed, several other symptoms (such as a tendency to tire easily, difficulty concentrating, and muscle tension) must accompany the anxiety.
Treatment involves a combination of medications (usually antianxiety medications and sometimes antidepressants) and psychotherapy.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder Overview of Anxiety Disorders Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease that is a normal human experience. It is also present in a wide range of mental health conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder... read more . About 3% of adults have it yearly. Women are twice as likely as men to have the disorder. The disorder more commonly begins in adulthood but may start at any age (see Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive, persistent nervousness, worry, and dread about many activities or events. Because of their worries, children with generalized anxiety disorder... read more ).
For most people, the disorder fluctuates, worsening at times (especially during times of stress), and persists over many years.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder constantly feel worried or distressed and have difficulty controlling these feelings. The severity, frequency, or duration of the worries is greater than the situation warrants.
Worries are general in nature, include many topics, and often shift from one topic to another over time. Common worries include work and family responsibilities, money, health, safety, car repairs, and chores.
Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A doctor's evaluation, based on standard psychiatric diagnostic criteria
For a doctor to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder, a person must experience worry or anxiety that
Concerns a number of activities and events
Is present more days than not over a period of 6 months or longer
In addition, the person must have 3 or more of the following symptoms:
Restlessness or a keyed-up or on-edge feeling
A tendency to tire easily
Before diagnosing generalized anxiety disorder, doctors do a physical examination. They may do blood or other tests to make sure the symptoms are not caused by a physical disorder or use of a drug.
Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A combination of psychotherapy and medications
The disorder is often managed with a combination of some form of psychotherapy and drug therapy. Psychotherapy can address the causes of anxiety and provide ways to cope.
Some antidepressants Medications for depression Depression is a feeling of sadness and/or a decreased interest or pleasure in activities that becomes a disorder when it is intense enough to interfere with functioning. It may follow a recent... read more , particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (such as escitalopram) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (such as venlafaxine), are effective for generalized anxiety disorder. These antidepressants usually take a few weeks to relieve anxiety, so some people are first given a benzodiazepine along with the antidepressant. Benzodiazepines are antianxiety medications that relieve anxiety quickly, typically almost immediately. However, because long-term use of benzodiazepines can lead to a medication dependence and addiction (see Antianxiety and Sedative Drugs Misuse of Antianxiety Medications and Sedatives Antianxiety and sedative medications are prescription drugs used to relieve anxiety and/or help with sleep, but their use can result in dependency and a substance use disorder. Using prescription... read more ), these medications are usually given for only a relatively short time. Once the antidepressant and psychotherapy becomes effective, the dose of the benzodiazepine may be decreased slowly, then stopped. Benzodiazepines should not be stopped abruptly.
Buspirone, another antianxiety medication, is effective for some people with generalized anxiety disorder. However, buspirone may take 2 weeks or longer to start working.
Herbal products such as kava Kava Kava comes from the root of a shrub that grows in the South Pacific. It is ingested as a tea or in capsule form. The active ingredients are thought to be kavalactones. (See also Overview of... read more and valerian Valerian Valerian is a perennial plant that grows wild in grasslands throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. The plant’s dried root contains valepotriates, which may have calming effects. Powdered... read more may have antianxiety effects, although their effectiveness and safety for treating anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder require further study.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy Psychotherapy Extraordinary advances have been made in the treatment of mental illness. As a result, many mental health disorders can now be treated nearly as successfully as physical disorders. Most treatment... read more has been shown to be beneficial for generalized anxiety disorder. With this therapy, people learn to do the following:
Recognize where their thinking is distorted
Control their distorted thinking
Modify their behavior accordingly
Relaxation, yoga, meditation, exercise, and biofeedback techniques may also be of some help (see Mind-Body Techniques Mind-Body Medicine Complementary or alternative medicine can be classified into five major categories of practice: Whole medical systems Mind-body techniques Biologically based practices Manipulative and body-based... read more ).
The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.
National Institute of Mental Health, Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Basic information on many aspects of generalized anxiety disorder, including prevalence statistics